The Playmobil phenomenon

For more than 40 years the toy figures have been inspiring the imaginations of children young and old, and the latest hit is called Martin Luther.

Although they are a modest 7.5 centimetres tall, they offer a wealth of opportunities to the imagination. And this is the recipe for the success of the Playmobil figures which originate from Germany and have been populating children’s rooms around the world for more than 40 years. Once again people are busy buying the little figures in Germany in time to place them beneath the Christmas trees at home.

Since Playmobil was founded, around three billion little figures have been produced. The many characters include construction workers, pirates, firemen, sports people and many more. When asked on the occasion of the company’s 40th anniversary in 2014 what Playmobil’s special attraction is, the founder Horst Brandstätter said: “It’s the variety. And what children can do with it. It’s not visible in the product itself; it’s in the imagination.” Horst Brandstätter died in the summer of 2015, but the company’s future is secure. Mr Brandstätter had already converted the company shares into a foundation.

More than 70 per cent of the turnover originates outside Germany

When the first plastic figures entered the market during the oil crisis in 1974, Mr Brandstätter was taking a big risk. But ever since the first major order was placed by a Dutch toy retailer, things have been going well for the company based in Zirndorf near Nuremberg in Franconia. In 2014 the company had a turnover of 535 million euros. The brightly coloured little figures are a source of playful pleasure around the globe. They are sold in more than 100 countries, and more than 70 per cent of Playmobil’s turnover originates outside Germany.

In order to ensure that interest remains lively, the company regularly creates new characters for the market. The makers are well aware of the competition from digital games equipment and makes efforts to gently combine the two worlds. As a result there is the animated TV series “Super 4” in which four Playmobil heroes protect a fictitious world. And the matching play sets became available in the shops shortly afterwards.

Playmobil has recently enjoyed a surprise success with a historical figure. In the run-up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, it developed a figure of Martin Luther. The first edition of more than 30,000 figures sold out within just a few days.